Tag Archives: acclimation

The Land of Ooze

“What time is it?” I whisper to Katherine, the only lady at the monthly Game Night wearing a watch. There are ten of us here at Marge’s and this is our second round of Catch Phrase.

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I was first invited by my friend Deborah. I had a great time in October, missed November, and tonight – December 3 – she just got up and demonstrated several 1960s dances (Twist, Watusi, Jerk and Pony) and our laughter rocked the entire 16 mile square subdivision.

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“Eight forty-five,” she says.

“I said I’d be home by 9,” I say and a couple of the ladies across the table just howl at my curfew. We are all wild and whooping it up, sipping wine and munching pupu platters and staying out late. Still, half the women live in other subdivisions, one has an outside job, and yet another’s cat allergies have kicked in and her eyes are watering. Everyone agrees to wind it up.

By 9:30 I’m out the door with my empty cookie plate and a big slab of apple pie in a plastic box for the Bearded One.

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The moon is huge, just 3 days from full. I see the constellation we call The Three Twinkly Ones – Orion’s Belt – clearly and think as I always do when seeing these three stars in a row of our three adult “kids,” all of whom were actually here together last month.

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After they left, unsurprisingly, I felt a bit bereft, pondering life and my navel and badgering everyone for a definition of home.

NeNe, my swimming buddy, says home is where your beloved is. The Bearded One says home is where you don’t want to live anywhere else. Our younger daughter, the Nurse, says home is where her hair products and cat are.

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I climb into the dark truck. It starts right up and stays started. Monday it was with Ed at Kolohe Car Repair on 19th Street getting its fuel pump relay replaced. Hawaii is hard on cars. Lava cinders grind the tires down, salt water and vog eat the paint and feed the rust, and the roads are rough. “Just gonna rattle the truck to death,” says the Bearded One.

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On the other hand, it’s December and the weather is exquisite, in the 60s at night, low 70s during the days with sun rays and a trade wind breeze. These are the reasons we moved here 8 months ago.

I back out the pitch black driveway and swerve to avoid a pothole the size of a toilet. I think how Ed the Mechanic reminds me so much of Virge the Mechanic back in Washington, good guys who come to our house to pick us up since we have just one car. I don’t want to be in Washington, though, I think.

I feel tired as I drive through the dark. I weeded one of the pineapple patches earlier today while the Bearded One weed-whacked.

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I can only imagine him trying to stay up for me. It’ll be 10 before we’re in bed. This with a man who went to bed at 2-3am most nights for the first decade or so we were back together.  He shifted his clock for me.

I turn left onto Paradise Drive, past the piles of uprooted albizia trees from Tropical Storm Iselle back in August, and I’m halfway home.

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One of the other Game Night women behind me turns right toward Pahoa, where the lava flow has picked up again after stalling out last month. “The vog set off our smoke alarm last week,” she told us between game rounds and pupus refills. She shrugged and smiled – what can you do?

The lava river has split and is oozing more toward us now, but it’s still miles away. A slow motion, months-if-not-years event.

And the feral pigs. One of which, a small black hog the size of a golden retriever runs in front of the truck as I turn onto our road off of Paradise.

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The Three Twinkly Ones and the moon shine brightly above our house as I enter our driveway. It’s 9:40 and the Bearded One greets me at the door in his jammies – electric blue surfer boy pants. The house behind him is dark.

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“I’m so sorry I’m late,” I say. His eyelids droop sleepily and he mumbles something about being happy that I had fun as he shuffles toward the stairs.

“Here,” I say, “I brought you some pie. Maybe a few days’ worth.”

“Pie?” He looks at my outstretched hand.

“Apple.”

He perks up, takes the pie to the kitchen and turns on the light. There is our new microwave oven, the smallest available at Target, but still uses lots of watts. Carefully he microwaves the pie, and then sits down by the window under the universe of stars and eats it all. There’s no place like home.

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A Palm Reading

It’s Summer Solstice morning and our oldest daughter calls from Seattle at 7:30am to say that her step-sister had her baby. A healthy boy with red hair and a Dutch name. I am bursting to tell the Bearded One, who isn’t back yet from his morning walk.

Mornings have been my hardest acclimation time, but since we’ve been in the house 3 weeks now, I’m not even taking the anti-anxiety pill anymore. Still, this is a real upper, we love this red-headed sister, and I holler to the Bearded One out the open window — She had the baby! — the second I see him opening the gate.

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The Bearded One grins and waves. I can’t tell if he’s heard me or not. Between us are palms galore waving and rustling in the wind. The house builder was a member of the Hawaii Palm Society and the acre is chock full of palm trees, thick and thin, tall and short, palmate leaves (like a wide-spread hand and called fan palms) and pinnate leaves (like bird feathers and called feather palms).

Suddenly I remember the other huge excitement we’ve been waiting on and shout again, since he is closer now, by the newly delivered gravel pile, “Did you get the newspaper?!”

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He holds the Hawaii Tribune-Herald up and I whoop, and then repeat my news about the baby. “Over eight pounds,” I say, forgetting the exact number, “and a bit of red hair!”

I offer to scramble eggs and fry toast and the Bearded One accepts eagerly and starts to read the newspaper at the built-in island between the kitchen and the dining room (which has no dining table but instead houses our bed until we get many projects finished upstairs).

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I have a day of cooking lined up, potato soup and fried rice. We like the Hawaiian Portuguese sausage and I’ve used it in omelettes, burritos, spaghetti, and hash browns.

It’s good to see the Bearded One enjoying a morning newspaper, but I need a bit of hot water and ask him to go turn on the decrepit Paloma, whose pilot light does not stay on.

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“Done,” he says and hops right up. I’ve got such a good life, I think. The Bearded One and Tom will install the new Eccotemp propane flash hot water heater tomorrow.

The generator is working again after having stopped because of not having ethanol free gas and getting clogged.

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A gem of a man in Hilo fixed it immediately when he heard our tale of it being our only power until we get solar, which is still several weeks away. Friends and family fill the waves washing ashore here with love, and I am reading our 79-year-old neighbor Jim’s novel, which is an honor. He has a fibrillating heart, is a self-proclaimed survivalist, he likes to talk story, and he is a character. The manuscript sits on the end of the kitchen island. I’m on page 27 and there are 133 pages, single-spaced.  I’ve read several chapters out loud to the Bearded One late at night, around 8pm.

He returns and I fill the dish tub with hot, soapy water. Washing dishes as I use them helps keep the mosquitoes away. Which we have plenty of, and I have bites, but I’ve learned a protocol – ice, wet washcloth, itch cream. He is humming the song we’ve both had in our heads all week, “You Can Do Magic,” by America. “You can have anything that you desire,” he sings as he plops back onto the stool.

I cook eggs and toast as the Bearded One reads. Our first pet, a gecko, hangs out on the kitchen island.

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He likes the Bearded One’s Coke and the morning bagel that I put out to defrost. Geckos are Hawaii. All homes have them. They hunt bugs relentlessly. No roach would last 60 seconds in our house.

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The wind blows through the palms and I listen to the doves calling and cooing.

“Ha!” says the Bearded One, and quotes from a Letter to the Editor, “The council’s rush to enshrine its slavish subservience to the shrill hysteria from an army of aging hippies living in Puna!”

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“Is that us?”

“Yes, I believe it is,” he says.

I bring over the Bearded One’s breakfast and look at the front page of the Puna paper,

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a Solstice article about the dedication of a landing pad for extraterrestrials down in Kalapana. We’ve been there a lot.

We agree that this new baby being born on the very cusp of the Solstice is a good sign. We’ll read his palms.

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Talk Story

Here I am at the doctor. A nurse practitioner named Linda in a bright mu’umu’u and a yellow plumeria in her graying hair follows up with me after an acclimation struggle that landed me in the Hilo ER with stomach pain from depression and anxiety on May 22.

The Bearded One is across the parking lot doing our laundry. Chatting with the Pahoa locals about dogs and moving and children. He is thriving.

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He has dealt with my depression for 20 years. It is not a Hawaii thing.  It moves in six year cycles. This one is right on time.

I’m back satisfactorily medicated, but the anxiety is new and that’s what has me back at the doctor again. My heart races and my stomach aches and roils and presses against my breath. I’ve lost 15 pounds from just eating less.  Brain stem stuff, pituitary, fight or flight stress that meds help, but as Linda says, “You also need to talk story.”  It’s a Hawaiian phrase.  Our neighbor used it when he came over to meet us.

“What do you want in your deepest heart?” she asks.

“To make our new house our home,” I say. This surprises me. It’s not to go back to Washington, which I thought about last month as we waited to get into our new home. “We’ve just been in the house a week. It’s off-grid. There’s a lot of work to do.”

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“Why did you come to Hawaii?”

I answer with the weather and the adventure of it, but later I regret not saying better that the big island of Hawaii is an amazing place — an active volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with virtually every ecosystem imaginable, rainforest, desert, alpine. I’m privileged to live here, and I know it when I wake at night and smell the gardenia and puakenikeni blossoms wafting across our inflatable mattress in the dining room of the house as I listen to the ocean pounding the shore less than a mile away.

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We have no electricity or hot water, but will by July. Since we got a land line – no cell phones work at our house – the Bearded One has been ordering solar components and Eccotemp propane flash hot water heaters and researching new water catchment tanks and completely engaging in the job at hand.

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I’m trying to engage with the kitchen. The propane stove is rusty and the propane fridge is old and small. Both are being replaced.  The tiny counter is a thick block of mango wood. I set up the Igloo 5-gallon drinking water cooler in a corner by the fridge. Hawaii is a huge porous lava rock and houses have cesspools and water catchment tanks for washing and flushing, but you have to bring potable water in.  It’s heavy.

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The Bearded One and I were both raised in Texas. We fell in love in the hot spring and summer of 1977 in Waco, and when we broke up a year later, I ran as far north as I could to Seattle, Washington. Where I fell in love with the cool gray wetness, and had 16 incredibly productive years with my first husband. Three children and seven published books.

When I started to write essays and even a poem about air conditioning and mimosa trees, I went for the first time to a doctor for depression. I divorced, married the Bearded One, and we stayed within 20 miles of my first husband and all raised the kids.

We told this tale to the WWOOFers at the community farm we stayed at April 14-June 2 down by Pahoa. They are the same age as our kids, and we treated them like ours. One was from Texas. We talked about big things, how 2/3 of the world doesn’t have electricity. I felt useful, and they were compassionate to me as I crashed in the heat wave we were having.

Thinking about our Texas-sized subdivision, the biggest in the entire USA. Hawaiian Paradise Park is immense, miles of roads, paved and unpaved, each lot an acre, some areas bleak as a Texas prairie, others shaded in towering albizia trees. Rooster lots supporting the cock fights,

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small churches of every imaginable sort, plant nurseries, and car repairs dot the big roads. Our termite guy lives on 29th – Mauka (toward the mountains) We live on 8th – Makai (toward the ocean). Tom lives on 16th. These are pretty far apart. We are car dependent as ever.

But we are living differently. Our systems are low tech. We are in the tropics. The aloha spirit of everyone being connected in ohana (family) and the deep respect for nature in the presence of molten earth are real and shared attitudes. Plus everyone tells me acclimation takes at least a year. I’ve been here two months.

I meet the Bearded One in front of the Laundromat, where he is reading.

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He waves good-bye to everyone there, and escorts me to the truck. The laundry is in the backseat, all beautifully folded.

“Island time,” he says. “We are juggling and getting stuff done without setting any personal best speed records in any category. It is happening. I think we’re here for a long haul.”

“Could be,” I say. “I’m getting there. Here.”

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